Fire Officials Address Rise in Suicides

Chicago effort has family focus


 
 

Steve MillsAngela Rozas | | Sunday, March 29, 2009


CHICAGO -- The Chicago Fire Department is looking into what it says is an increase in firefighter suicides and attempts in the last year in hopes of putting together outreach programs to prevent more, officials said Friday.

The department's union president said there have been a half-dozen suicides and an undisclosed number of attempted suicides in the last year, an "above average number," prompting department officials to organize open counseling sessions and a family day to address the outbreak.

"Unfortunately, it's one of those things we just don't have an answer for," said Tom Ryan, president of the firefighters' union. "You don't know why. The victim is gone and you don't know what the thought process is."

Ryan said he does not see any obvious cause, but noted that firefighter and paramedic jobs are stressful and the people who work them tend to be stoic, bottling up their feelings.

"In the course of our job we see a lot of difficult things," he said. "Could it be a contributing factor? We don't know. Everybody leaves and goes home and you don't know what happens behind closed doors."

Larry Langford, spokesman for the department, acknowledged that there have been more suicides and attempts in the last year, and that the department is looking into why it happened.

"We're giving it more study than before," he said.

As part of its efforts, the department sponsored a Family Focus Day on Jan. 31. Rather than dwell solely on suicide, planners designed an all-day event focused on what can be at the root of serious stress, such as financial problems, substance abuse, education and other family issues, said Liz Crowe, coordinator for human relations for the department. Local financial and mental health agencies volunteered their time, she said.

"We didn't feel that if we had a lecture on suicide that we'd get a lot of people interested," Crowe said. More than 600 of the 5,000 firefighters and paramedics attended the event with their families, she said.

The department plans to have more such events.

The department also has sent personnel staff and counselors to suicide prevention and awareness seminars so that they are as attuned as possible to the issue, said Ryan.

The union is reminding members about employee-assistance programs.

"We don't want the trend to continue," Ryan said. "Firemen and paramedics -- men and women both -- tend to internalize things.

"That's because you have to be stoic in the face of some really bad things sometimes."




Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Provider Wellness and Safety

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Mechanical CPR is Producing Resuscitation Results Beyond Expectations

Discover why clinical studies are finding mechanical CPR just as effective as optimally-performed CPR.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

New York Boys Rescued from Snow Pile

Plow accidentally covers Newberg boys.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

New Technology Helps Missouri Ambulances

Strategic GPS tracking helps in Springfield.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Profile: Hospital Wing Air Ambulance

Take a look inside this Memphis service.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

New Monitors for Wyoming EMS

Grant helps Torrington EMS get new equipment.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Violence, Arson in Ferguson

Crowds in Ferguson and elsewhere react to decision.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

California Bus Rollover

One killed and dozens injured.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Buffalo Residents Dig Out and Prepare for Flooding

Flooding expected as heavy snow melts.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >